Oil rises on hopes for deeper OPEC output cuts, US-China trade talks

OPEC lowered its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast to 0.98 million barrels per day. (AFP)
Updated 11 October 2019

Oil rises on hopes for deeper OPEC output cuts, US-China trade talks

  • OPEC lowered its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast to 0.98 million barrels per day
  • Top US and Chinese negotiators wrapped up the first of two days of scheduled trade talks on Thursday

SEOUL: Oil prices climbed early on Friday, building on gains in the previous session, after producer club OPEC hinted at making deeper cuts in supply while optimism was revived over talks between the United States and China to end their trade war.
International benchmark Brent crude futures were at $59.26 a barrel by 0251 GMT, up 16 cents, or 0.3 percent, from their previous settlement. Brent settled up 1.3 percent at $59.10 a barrel on Thursday.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 16 cents, also up 0.3 percent, from their last close to $53.71 per barrel. In the previous session, WTI settled 1.8 percent higher at $53.55 a barrel.
On Thursday Mohammad Barkindo, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said all options were on the table, including a deeper supply cut to balance oil markets. A decision would be taken at a December meeting between the OPEC and its partners, he said.
OPEC lowered its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast to 0.98 million barrels per day (bpd), while leaving its 2020 demand growth estimate unchanged at 1.08 million bpd, according to OPEC’s monthly report.
Beyond OPEC, trade talks between the United States and China also remained on the market’s radar as the world’s top two economies seek to resolve a more-than-a-year-long trade row that has slowed global economic growth and curbed fuel consumption.
“Oil bought into the upbeat tone from the bilateral talks as well, for better or for worse, and was also boosted by fighting talk on prices by the OPEC secretary-general,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA in Singapore.
Top US and Chinese negotiators wrapped up the first of two days of scheduled trade talks on Thursday, with business groups expressing optimism that the two sides might be able to ease tensions and delay a US tariff hike set for next week.
“The United States is the largest global consumer of oil while China, the biggest driver of year-on-year oil demand growth,” said Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader.
“The most significant sentiment driver hinges on the outcome of the trade talks which, if (they) end on a positive note, could go a long way to begin to repair the economic damage done ... these economic powerhouses would need more oil,” said Innes.


Lebanon plans to charge for WhatsApp calls -minister

Updated 17 October 2019

Lebanon plans to charge for WhatsApp calls -minister

  • Jamal al-Jarrah said that cabinet had agreed a charge of 20 cents per day for calls used by applications including Whatsapp, Facebook calls and FaceTime
  • The fee could potentially bring in up to $250 million in annual revenues from the country's estimated 3.5 million VoIP users

BEIRUT: Lebanon's cabinet has agreed to impose a fee on calls over WhatsApp and other similar applications, as part of efforts to raise revenues in the country's 2020 draft budget, a minister said on Thursday.
Lebanon has one of the world's highest debt burdens, low growth and crumbling infrastructure and is facing strains in its financial system from a slowdown in capital inflows. The government has declared a state of "economic emergency" and promised steps to ward off a crisis.
Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said on Thursday that cabinet had agreed a charge of 20 cents per day for calls via voice over internet protocol (VoIP), used by applications including Facebook-owned Whatsapp, Facebook calls and FaceTime.
The fee could potentially bring in up to $250 million in annual revenues from the country's estimated 3.5 million VoIP users.
The country has only two service providers, both state-owned, and some of the most costly mobile rates in the region.
Lebanese TV channels cited Telecoms Minister Mohamed Choucair as saying the fee would "not be applied without something in return" which he would announce next week.
Finance Mininster Ali Hassan Khalil said last month there were no new taxes or fees in the draft 2020 budget he sent to cabinet.
Lebanon is under pressure to approve the 2020 budget to unlock some $11 billion pledged at a donor conference last year, conditional on fiscal and other reforms.
Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has said the government would work to further reduce the 2020 budget deficit.
Foreign allies are not yet fully convinced the Lebanese government is serious about reforms, and a French envoy last month criticised the pace of work.
The government only approved the 2019 budget halfway through this year. Lebanon had until 2017 had gone 12 years without a budget.
Ahead of a cabinet session on Thursday, Jarrah said ministers would discuss a proposal to raise value-added tax by 2 percentage points in 2021 and then another 2 percentage points in 2022, until it reaches 15%.
After ministers agree the 2020 draft budget, they must send it to parliament for approval.